Strong stuff

Bosnia latest (from OHR website:

Commenting on the revelation of Ratko Mladic’s personnel military file published in today’s press, the High Representative, Paddy Ashdown, said that the document indicates that the RS, through the VRS, had for a full seven years, been in flagrant breach of Dayton and their international obligations by formally retaining Ratko Mladic on their books and perhaps even paying him while claiming they didn’t know where he was.

“We have now seen for ourselves Ratko Mladic’s personnel file,” said the High Representative. “The fact that as recently as two years ago, the VRS had an employer/employee relationship with Mr Mladic is scandalous, and is an indication of the flagrant disregard that the RS authorities and especially the VRS have held towards their Dayton commitments and their obligations to the International Tribunal in The Hague.”

He said that this document supports comments made by the ICTY Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte last week, in which she noted that there are fundamental systemic weaknesses built into the law enforcement and security structures in the RS.

“What does this tell us about the collusion of the VRS in Mr Mladic’s continued evasion of justice and their willingness to co-operate with the ICTY?,” said the High Representative. “This is proof of systemic institutional weaknesses that exist – in particular in the RS MoI and MoD. The RS must break with the past if it wants a modern European future.”

He noted that the document also contradicts the claim by the RS authorities that the institutional links between the VJ and VRS were severed back in 2000 and 2001. “If Mr Mladic was registered with both the VJ and the VRS, why did his personnel file never appear back in 2000 and 2001 when the authorities were claiming to have severed the link?” said the High Representative.

Ratko Mladic’s personnel military file was published today. It showed that he was discharged from the VJ in 2001 and from the VRS in 2002. His discharge from the VRS was issued by decree of the then RS President Mirko Sarovic in March 2002.

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So, I bought this big chunk of boneless turkey at the supermarket yesterday. This evening I took a deep oven dish, lined the bottom of it with onions, olive oil, tarragon, and sage from the garden, put in the turkey, shoved it in the oven at 180°C, took it out halfway through to turn over the meat and put in some mushrooms and more herbs, and finally served it to my hungry wife with loads of potatoes, Brussels sprouts and peas.

It tasted disgusting. Oh well, you can’t win ’em all. At least there were enough potatoes to make a proper meal, and the gravy was tasty even if the meat wan’t.

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Top 50 sf films (from IMDB)

As usual, I’ve bolded the ones I’ve seen.

1. Star Wars (1977) – was actually on TV here last weekend, as good as ever.
2. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) – at least I’ve seen most of it on TV
3. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) – saw the new digital version just after U was born
4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) – saw this on the plane the other week, missed the end unfortunately, looks great.
5. Matrix, The (1999) – saw this in Belgrade shortly before Milosevic was overthrown – great to look at, silly plot.
6. Manchurian Candidate, The (1962)
7. Incredibles, The (2004)
8. Metropolis (1927) – am sure I saw this late one night on TV, can’t remember much about it except marching robots
9. Alien (1979) – superb of course
10. Clockwork Orange, A (1971) – to my shame, I haven’t seen this
11. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – love it.
12. Aliens (1986)
13. Donnie Darko (2001)
14. Blade Runner (1982) – superb.
15. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) – yes, I think it is better than the original
16. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
17. Day the Earth Stood Still, The (1951) – Klaatu Barada Nikto!
18. Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)
19. Young Frankenstein (1974) – “He would have an emormous Schwanzst¨ck!”
20. Back to the Future (1985)
21. King Kong (1933)
22. Brazil (1985) – still sends a chill down my spine
23. Frankenstein (1931)
24. Twelve Monkeys (1995)
25. Memories (1995) – haven’t heard of this one
26. Terminator, The (1984)
27. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
28. Planet of the Apes (1968)
29. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
30. X2 (2003)
31. Iron Giant, The (1999)
32. Fail-Safe (1964)
33. Thing, The (1982)
34. Minority Report (2002) – not really as good as I had expected
35. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) – I don’t think it grows on you, more the opposite
36. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
37. Abre los ojos (1997)
38. Lost Horizon (1937)
39. Invisible Man, The (1933)
40. Delicatessen (1991)
41. Truman Show, The (1998)
42. Kaze no tani no Naushika (1984)
43. Shin seiki Evangelion Gekijô-ban: Air/Magokoro wo, kimi ni (1997)
44. Cité des enfants perdus, La (1995)
45. Forbidden Planet (1956)
46. Akira (1988)
47. Solyaris (1972)
48. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
49. Innocence (2004/I)
50. 2046 (2004)

Shows how little I go to the cinema. A lot there that I hadn’t heard of towards the end, and not all of them, Japanese…

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I see the US charge d’affaires has taken offence at Ian Traynor’s article on US involvement in the Ukrainian crisis in yesterday’s Guardian.

I have to smile. For a start, Ambassador Johnson’s reaction is over-sensitive; Ian Traynor’s article is a neutral verging on positive description of how the US has facilitated regime change in Serbia and Georgia (and failed in Belarus). It’s also pretty accurate, at least as far as my own memories of participating in the Serbian stuff goes – certainly I was involved with meetings in Budapest and Szeged at the time – though there are a couple of small details wrong in what he says about Georgia. Of course it will be used by the crowd as “proof” that the global capitalist conspiracy is Behind It All, but that’s true of almost any commentary.

Sure, there is an important detail which is not brought out in the article, which is that in Georgia and Serbia the key prerequisite for success was not the US assistance but the fact that more than half the population wanted to get rid of their government. Absent this condition (as in Belarus, or indeed Moldova, Armenia or Azerbaijan) there’s not a lot that outsiders can achieve by throwing money or seminars at opposition activists. But if you look at Ian Traynor’s article in the context of the whole of the coverage of Ukraine in yesterday’s Guardian, I think the bigger picture is pretty clear.

The other thing that is interesting is that this was a crisis long foreseen. The outgoing president did give everyone else fair warning (without much adding to his own credibility) when he predicted almost a year ago that these would be the dirtiest elections ever in Ukraine. Too often I find myself complaining that a particular crisis should have been seen coming by the international community. This is an exception, a crisis that has been long anticipated and prepared for. Well, we’ll see what the outcome is…

Added Later: One more thought. Of course, the idea that a global capitalist conspiracy is Behind It All is fuelled by the fact that Uncle Sam and Uncle George are the main funders of the opposition groups. (This conspiracy thesis is easily refuted by just asking Soros or the Republicans what they think of each other!) Really, the question Europeans should be asking is not, “Why are US actors so keen to support democratic opposition groups in Eastern Europe” but “Why are European actors so much less prominent in their support for democracy on their own continent”? I don’t know the answer, but to me it is the more interesting question.

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I’m attempting to get myself a bit more organised; who knows if this will work…

This is me thinking out loud about my work schedule for next week.
I’m most impressed by he way periodically posts
his schedule – I expect more for your own personal benefit than in the
expectation that friends and lovers will bookmark it for reference?
Anyway, it’s worth a try.

Meetings scheduled (too bloody many):

Monday 29th: lunch with Estonian diplomat and Euro-MP re Moldova.

mid-afternoon: lecture to audience of international (but mainly ex-Soviet) mid-level army officers about what we do at work.

late afternoon and evening: attending lecture by Vojin Dimitrijevic in Louvain-La-Neuve and then dinner at Baron Snoy’s chateau

Tuesday 30th: mid-morning lecture to Balkan municipal administrators about EU and Balkans

lunch with Liberal Euro-MPs re Balkans

early evening: Albanian Embassy reception

Wednesday 1st: possible breakfast with Balkan municipal administrators
(I may just skip this)
mid-morning meeting with Hungarian Euro-MP re Balkans etc
early afternoon meeting with Australian Ph D researcher re our advocacy style

Thursday 2nd: late morning meeting with EU civilian crisis management boss re our problems with Bosnian EU police mission

lunch with NATO staff working on Balkans

late afternoon meeting with Bosnia desk officer at European Commission

Friday 3rd: Nothing, yet.

Hmm, one dinner and three lunches, not bad! Perhaps I should try and fit in networking lunches on the other two days as well…

Other things I have to do:

tasks left over from this week:

  • Write to EU police commissioner in Bosnia
  • Edit Moldova report
  • Send draft Kosovo report to Luxembourg dplomat and make date for meeting
  • reclaim money from Brigham Young University
  • pay parking tickets
  • claim expenses from October work travel
  • do credit card reconciliation
  • advertise for vacancy in our Caucasus team
  • decide if and when to close our Skopje office

Things likely to hit my desk during next week:

  • Draft Macedonia report likely to be sent Monday or Tuesday, will require review and sending back to authors
  • Draft Kosovo report – frustratingly slow in arriving; is tying up both Belgrade and Pristina offices.
  • Situation in Ukraine may require some action from me (unlikely; we are not doing press interviews on it as we’re not involved)

Well, that’s been helpful. Perhaps I should also take a moment to review my scheduled trips abroad:

December 8-10: conference in Albania
possible following week: brainstorming at foreign ministry in Slovenia
Want to fit in Balkans tour early in the year, preferably just after Macedonia municipal elections in March.
April 1-4: work meeting in Washington (and so try to spend the week after in Washington and New York)
May 21st: wedding in Massachusetts (and so spend week before or after exploring east coast of US with Anne and children)

The planning continues.

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November Books 10) Tears of the Giraffe

10) Tears of the Giraffe, by Alexander McCall Smith

More light reading for me, sequel to The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Actually this is very light reading. The actual mystery is not very mysterious, and is resolved by our heroine by feminine intuition – “He is dead. He never left here. That man is evil.” Most of the book is extending the characterisation of her assistant and her gentleman friend. I’ll try one more of these but unless something actually happens I’ll leave it there.

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An evening oop north

Anne and I went to the Hague last night for the last instalment of the wedding we attended back in April – part of the celebration that had been scaled back due to the death of ex-Queen Juliana in March.

This was a dance perfomance by the Netherlands Dance Theatre, a world premiere (as we understood it) of two pieces choreographed by Jorma Elo and by Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon, and of a revision of an established Lightfoot/Leon piece. Neither Anne nor I know very much about modern dance: as long as it isn’t boring or silly, that’s fine, and if it’s entertaining so much the better. Our previous efforts to watch modern dance had not been successful, a very silly bloke we saw around 1991 in Belfast who mimed the letters of the alphabet to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, and a dismally boring woman who performed a solo ballet routine in lieu of a sermon at a Methodist service we attended in Munich back in 1992.

Anne’s mother is staying so was able to babysit for us; I took the afternoon off work and we drove oop north, reaching the theatre in the Hague about seven o’clock. In contrast to the wedding ceremony, almost everyone there was from the Hague or at least from the Netherlands. There must have been getting on for a thousand, almost the same number that were at the church. We managed to shake hands and say hello to Mabel and Friso, and then I identified a Brussels friend who we chatted to until the show started.

As we wandered into the auditorium, I instinctively went for seats in the middle of a row a bit more than a third of the way up the hall. As we were getting comfortable I looked around behind us and realised that there was nobody sitting in the next row back, because there were little bits of paper stuck all over the seats. Yep, we had chosen the row right in front of the royals. In trooped the prime minister (limping, with a striking resemblance to Harry Potter) and various other dignitaries, followed by the happy couple and the other two princes with their wives; and finally by the queen, who took her seat right behind Anne.

But we were not enslaved by formality. As everyone was poised waiting for the cue to sit down, someone in the crowd started singing “Lang zal ze leven“, a children’s song which I had always thought was strictly the equivalent of “Happy Birthday” but I suppose it’s a general song of congratulations. The entire audience joined in, making the appropriate hand gestures towards Mabel and Friso on the last line – Hip hip hoera – including the queen. (Is this linked with Mabel’s recently announced pregnancy? I don’t know.)

So anyway, the program started with a slightly obscure piece by Jorma Elo called Plan To Adrawn onward, performed to the music of Christian Zeal and Activity by John Adams. Adams is also the author of the famous operas Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer. This was my first encounter with his music and I have to say that together with the dance I felt it veered towards the silly.

The last piece, however, SH-BOOM, was great fun – never mind not being boring or silly, it was really entertaining. I realise now looking at the programme notes that it was Lightfoot and Leon’s first big hit, and thinking back I think I realise that a number of people in the audience had seen most of it before. But the two new bits were both based on old Stan Freberg songs, and were both (intentionally) very funny, a single dancer playing both roles in “John and Marsha”, and an acrobatic perfomance of “C’Est Si Bon” (you know, the song with the lead singer getting frustrated with his chorus because they won’t sing “C’est Bon” at the right moment). So the whole thing ended on a high note.

It then turned out that the bloke sitting next to me, a Dutch former World Bank official who has retired to live in Belgium, had been to the same school that I attended for a year in the Netherlands in 1979-80 (though 25 years earlier). We were both still able to remember the school song (Wij vormen tezaam de bemanning…) which is a bit embarrassing.

It was far too late to go back home last night, so we stayed in what looked like a very nice hotel in Delft – not that we really had time to appreciate it as I had to be back at work this morning. Not the kind of thing we go to every day. While it’s unlikely we will make a regular habit of attending royal events, maybe we can get to live theatre in future a bit more than we have done over the last few years.

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November Books 9) The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

9) The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith

A really charming book, and I hope that the real Botswana is as friendly and laid-back as the Botswana portrayed here (I know that George Monbiot has harsher things to say about the place). This isn’t really a novel, more a loosely linked series of cheerful vignettes, as if the author was doing a series of trial pieces to try out his writing skills. But all very nice, with on the whole happy endings to each of them.

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Mouth ulcers update

Thanks very much again to everyone who made suggestions last week. In the end I didn’t try salt or Bonjela, both of which have failed me before, but I have been going for a combination of mint tea last thing at night, vitamin pills and also the stuff you dab on with a brush, sold here as Pyralvex, which is basically rhubarb extract and aspirin. The healing time has been about the same as usual but they have hurt much less, which is a relief. So I know what to do next time. (And will keep on popping vitamin pills to try and make sure there isn’t a next time!)

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1. When did you first “friend” me?
2. Why did you first “friend” me?
3. What posts of mine do you like to read the best?
4. What would you like me to write about that I don’t?
5. Do you think we would be friends in real life?
6. How often do you read my journal?
7. What do we have in common?
8. Will you post this in your journal so I can answer?
9. Do I actually resemble any fictional character in your eyes?

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November Books 8) Year’s Best SF 9

8) Year’s Best SF 9, ed. David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer.

Much the most interesting of the 2003 SF anthologies. The Dozois one remains definitive, and best value for money, and the Haber/Strahan one I found a bit disappointing. But this has a couple of my favourite stories from the Dozois again (none in common with Haber/Strahan, interestingly) and a number of gems. This includes two stories translated from Spanish, one of which I’m afraid I just couldn’t get into, but the other one a fascinating riff on altering history (in this case, enduring that the post-Franco transition to democracy is not prevented). Lots of good stuff here which I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to read. Recommended.

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Minor success

Monday last week, we had a meeting at the EU Council Secretariat. Rather to our surprise the EU Special Representative to the South Caucasus, a grand (though jolly) Finnish ambassador, was there – we thought we were meeting only lowly officials. Nonetheless we pressed hard on the case for the EU getting directly involved in the Georgia/South Ossetia crisis to try and short-circuit the stalled peace negotiations. The EU folks looked at each other and said, Hmm, maybe we could try that.

This morning’s top headline in the Georgian news:

“The upcoming meeting between Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania and South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoiti, which the EU plans to organize in Sofia in the near future, will become yet another step towards rapprochement of the conflict sides,” Heikki Talvitie, EU Special Representative in the South Caucasus told journalists after his meeting with Zhvania on Nov. 18.

So sometimes you can make a difference.

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More on being 37

37 is the most common age for people to write award-winning sf. 21 Hugo and Nebula awards have been made to authors for work published when they were 37-ish:

Greg Egan, Oceanic (Hugo ’99)
Allen Steele, “The Death of Captain Future” (Hugo ’96)
Alan Brennert, “Ma Qui” (Nebula ’91)
David Brin, The Uplift War (Hugo ’88)
George R.R. Martin, “Portraits of His Children” (Nebula ’85)
Nancy Kress, “Out Of All Them Bright Stars” (Nebula ’85)
Gardner Dozois, “Morning Child” (Nebula ‘1984)
John Varley, “Press Enter ” (Nebula ’84 and Hugo ’85)
Octavia Butler, “Bloodchild” (Nebula ’84 and Hugo ’85)
Connie Willis, “Fire Watch” (Nebula ’82 and Hugo ’83)
Connie Willis, “A Letter From The Clearys” (Nebula ’82)
Michael Bishop, No Enemy But Time (Nebula ’82)
Barry Longyear, “Enemy Mine” (Nebula ’79 and Hugo ’80)
Larry Niven, “The Borderland of Sol” (Hugo ’76)
Poul Anderson, “No Truce With Kings” (Hugo ’64)
Walter M Miller, A Canticle for Leibowitz (Hugo ’61)
James Blish, A Case of Conscience (Hugo ’61)

Of course the last of these had already been published in magazine form, and no doubt the timing is similarly questionable for some of the others. Still it makes you think. Or at least, makes me think.

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Bah. This 2000-word article was due in weeks ago, and I have written precisely 300 of them so far.

Sore tongue. Mouth ulcer. Due to gritted teeth while driving 1500 km to Geneva and back, I suspect.

Oh well. Office drinks in a few minutes. Another day with nothing much achieved.

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Geneva and languages

Just a few thoughts on the last couple of days, sparked by being rather tired and cradling baby on my lap while typing (as so often).

I drove from here to Geneva on Saturday, and back on Monday. 780 km (ie 480 miles), taking the motorway all the way rather than risk getting lost in what looked like a potential shortcut at the end via Poligny. Took me seven hours going, and nine coming back (I was more relaxed about my timing, and stopped several times to take phone calls from colleagues). My itinerary included all the serious European countries that speak French (Luxembourg, but not Monaco, included). The first bit was of course just a repetition of the Thursday/Friday trip with the family.

I find long car drives quite relaxing, though I feel suddenly very tired today. (The baby has now fallen asleep so I am typing unimpeded.) I was able to listen to my complete Hitch-Hiker’s Guide set of CD’s on the way down, only to discover to my annoyance that I haven’t been looking after them properly and several of them have got badly scratched. On the way back I was listening to a great set of 8 Sibelius CD’s I picked up a couple of months back in Vienna airport for only 38 euro.

Speaking of Douglas Adams, hitch-hiking has really gone out of fashion. Or perhaps it was just November. Leaving Brussels on the Saturday, I picked up a student going 20 km down the road to Louvain-la-Neuve. Leaving Geneva on the Monday, I gave one of the other people at our meeting a lift to the airport. Apart from that I was on my own; apart from service station and toll booth staff, my only human conversation was a bloke doing a survey on tourist expenditure for the French government who grilled me for useful data in a Burgundian car park. And, as I said, my colleagues who phoned.

The only real problem with driving like that is you don’t see much of the human landscape. The broader picture is clear – flat out of Brussels, hilly Ardennes, flat again in Lorraine and Burgundy, and then proper almost-alps in the Jura. But no real impression of Namur, Metz, Nancy or even Dijon, where I once had a pleasant day in the library. If I was doing it again, I think I’d set out before breakfast and take twelve hours, with proper breaks.

French is not a language I feel especially comfortable in; my German and Dutch are much better. But oddly enough my confidence has been boosted in the last week or so, part by the trip to Bouillon and Redu, and partly also by a dinner I attended with a couple of US diplomats and an Australian colleague from the office, where I realised that even my vestigial French was better than the other three could manage. Also at the formal dinner in Geneva on the Sunday night, the local dignitaries made their speeches in French, fortunately not too Swiss-accented, and I had no difficulty following it.

Often people assume that living in Belgium, and doing a job in international politics with lots of contact with the EU, I must be using French all the time. In fact it’s pretty rare for me to need it for a real meeting. There is a “Brussels convention” for EU and NATO meetings that you are expected to be able to understand if someone speaks French to you, and in turn they should understand if you reply in English. I usually go a little further by struggling for a few sentences in French and then asking for mercy. (It’s interesting that the Canadian convention is different, and you are expected to include a paragraph of bad French in an otherwise English speech, and vice versa.)

With the post-1995 enlargements, Austria, Finland, Sweden and now the new ten, even this is slipping away, and English has pretty much taken over. Odd really, when you consider that German is in fact the most widely spoken language in the EU, with 80 million in Germany and a few more in Austria. Yet the presumption from German diplomats is that they will speak fluent English or French. I once had the experience at a party of being conscious that the German and Austrian on one side of me were waiting until they were sure I was concentrating on talking to the Australian on the other side of me before they switched to German, though both knew that my German is pretty fluent. The only conference I’ve been to where German was a serious language of communication was, tellingly, in Vienna this time last year.

I never use Dutch for professional purposes at all, unless I am asking a Dutch or Flemish colleague for a favour. And my Serbo-Croat is only good enough to ask the receptionist to put me through to the ambassador, or minister, or professor, or whoever it is I need to talk to. That and the not insignificant task of buying food and drink. And occasional political slogans of course: Смрт фашизму! Слобода народу! Smrt fašizmu! Sloboda narodu!

Anyway, it’s definitely bed time now.

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Well, about six months ago, when I still had hopes of the European Commission job coming through, I applied for a vacancy in the European Parliament’s administrative staff. Rather to my surprise they got back to me last week, offering me interviews on 24 and 25 November.

This was mildly inconvenient. I had already planned to go to the Hague on the evening of the 24th, for the dance performance postpomed from the royal wedding earlier this year, and also had a big meeting with the foreign ministry of Luxembourg planned for the 25th. Still, these are ephemeral commitments that one would blow off if a more attractive job was in prospect.

I had a long heart-to-heart last night with Pat Cox, former President of the European Parliament. He pointed out to me that although the money might be better at the European Parliament, he had to (reluctantly) admit that my general level of influence, and indeed career prospets, are much better where I am.

So I think I’ll write a brief email withdrawing my application. No point in applying for something I don’t really want.

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Years meme

20 years ago:
1. I was in long-distance love with S. (me in Belfast, her in Ponteland)
2. I was playing postal Diplomacy (my first serious fandom)
3. I was the Secretary of the Irish Astronomical Association

15 years ago:
1. I had just split up with C.
2. I had an on-off relationship with H.
3. I was having a miserable time as Deputy President of Cambridge University Studens Union

10 years ago:
1. Anne and I had been married for just over a year
2. We were living in a rented flat on the Malone Road in Belfast
3. I was the Alliance Party’s central Director of Elections

5 years ago:
1. Fergal had been born a few months earlier
2. Though we didn’t realise it, Bridget (then aged two) was going through an autistic regression and losing her ability to talk
3. We were settling into life in Belgium and my work in Brussels

3 years ago:
1. I told our chief executive that our new press officer was useless, and he should get rid of her, give me a raise and let me do her job as well as my own; and he bought it
2. I was the keynote speaker at a conference on implementing the Macedonian peace agreement organised by the Swiss government
3. We had moved to Oud-Heverlee to be near Bridget’s school in Leuven.

1 year ago:
1. Ursula was nearly a year old
2. I was watching four political crises climax almost simultaneously – the Kozak affair in Moldova, and the elections in Georgia, Croatia and Northern Ireland
3. I was staring to update livejournal regularly

1. I drove from Brussels to Geneva
2. I had a grotty tandoori chicken sandwich for lunch
3. I had a much nicer dinner which I was just in time for.

1. I spent all day at our board meeting, Nothing else.

1. I will drive back from Geneva to Brussels
2. I hope to send critiques of my three stories from Critters this week
3. I hope to watch my regular Monday diet of University Challenge and Mastermind with Anne.

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An old friend came to visit us yesterday. A contemporary of ours at Cambridge, he has spent the last fifteen years since graduation not really doing much; got a Master’s degree after several years of nothing, now has a ten-year-old Ph D thesis, not completed. It was nice to see him again, of course, and rekindle the old friendship; but also somewhat depressing for his sake. He’s never had a real job and has been able to survive due to the fact that his family are pretty wealthy; but that is now running out, and his relatively recently acquired girlfriend is suggesting increasingly strongly that he should get a life.

If my family had been richer, that could easily have been me.

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